Cold hard fact: The accent and pronunciation we learned in school were wrong. At least for most of the schools in the Philippines. Sure you might know lots of uncommon and big English words that makes a regular native English speaker wanna run to a dictionary but the questions is:
Is your accent clear for native English speakers to understand?
In return, can you understand native English speakers?
If you're reading this, the answer is probably no. And I was no exception, a few years ago. But the good news is, you can fix that. Because what matters in having a conversation is to be able to understand and be understood.
Why the English you learned in school isn't enough
1.) Most teachers don't sound like native English speakers.
And guess what, they don't have to. Their goal is to equip the Filipino students with enough English vocabulary to perform jobs that involves English in the Philippines. But sounding like native speakers? It doesn't have to happen.
After all, we're in the Philippines and sounding like the real American accent was not necessary. Was.
That would have been completely fine 25 years ago, when the BPO industry was non-existent. But now, it's the exact opposite. And with the massive number of Filipinos today who desperately need decent paying jobs to support their families, or to earn more than most jobs, we need to rethink the way we learn English.
As applicants, you must walk the extra mile to match this demanding English requirement. The good news is learning the right accent is easier than you think. Which brings me to my next point.
2.) The missing ingredient: listening
Our schools focus more on speaking but not on listening. Remember those times when teacher, with the left hand on her hip and her right tapping the stick on the board, would say,
Dutifully, the whole class reads.
"One more time!"
Whole class reads.
While the teachers have with good intention when doing this, there's an extremely important ingredient that's missing from the whole learning process- listening.
Why listening to the right English accent is so damn important?
Because that's exactly how we learned our mother tongue as babies!
When we were newborn babies, when we were just learning to say, "mama" and "papa",
- were we given a grammar book and a dictionary to learn new words?
- were we taught the difference between the intonation of a question mark and a period?
- were we taught how to pronounce each letter in the alphabet like what a teachers do in class?
Nope. Never. And yet, we speak our mother tongue fluently! How did we do that? The answer is through listening.
Through listening, our brain makes better sense in understanding the spoken words and can effectively mimic/ imitate the right pronunciation, emphasis, enunciation, and accent. Through listening that's how babies, learn their language. Our parents didn't buy a grammar book for us to speak. No. We learned everything by listening.
But don't take my word for it.
Listen to AJ Hoge from Effortless English, a native English tutor who has been helping non-native English speakers all around the world speak fluent English. In his video, he explains why listening is so important and why it's more effective than using your eyes to learn.
Free tools to improve your English
This is no news. You go to YouTube and search native English speakers' channels and begin listening.
But here's the problem:
Sitting in the chair, waiting for the video to finish, and trying your best to focus on the video is boring. And when it's boring, chances are, you won't remember much about it.
But I have a solution to that. Less boring, more efficient, more convenient, and doesn't have to require internet all the time—downloading the video for offline listening.
What this means is, even if you are not in the computer and not connected to the internet, you can still listen to it anywhere and offline through your phone or mp3 player. Of course, you'll need to be connected to the internet and computer when you download it, but compare it to staying in the chair and waiting for the whole thing to finish. You'll save a lot of time. Absolutely not boring. Your learning becomes more efficient.
How to download and convert YouTube videos
Before we do that, you need to take note of these keywords to better understand my instructions:
URL or website
It's basically an address in the internet. For example, the URL of my site website is https://pisopinoy.com. Another example of a website are facebook.com, twitter.com, instagram.com, youtube.com, etc.
Browser is the application you use in order to access websites. Examples are Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, etc.
1. First, open Youtube.
- In a browser of your choice, type in youtube.com. Then press Enter.
- On the search bar, type in the video you're looking for, the one you want to convert to mp3 and download.
For example purposes, I'm going to search AJ Hoge's videos. So I typed in "aj hoge."
3.) Click the video of your choice.
4.) Now, we're in! The video should now play.
If you want to just listen to the video while sitting in front of the computer, your job stops here.
However, if you want to convert it to an mp3 and listen to it later while you're offline, then follow the next steps below:
2.) Open the video to mp3 converter.
Aside from YouTube, we need to open another website named onlinevideoconverter.com. Why? Because the goal is to convert the video to an mp3 file. Converting it to mp3 will allow your phone or mp3 player to recognize and play the video.
1.) Open another tab by clicking the part indicated by the pink arrow.
2.) In another tab, type in https://www.onlinevideoconverter.com/mp3-converter and press Enter. The page should look like this.
3. Link the 2 websites together.
Now that we've opened both websites, our job now is to link or connect them.
YouTube has the video we want. On the other hand, the Online Video Converter's job is to convert the YouTube video to mp3 and download it.
Therefore, we need to connect the two together. Make sense?
1.) To do that, we have to go back to YouTube and copy YouTube's URL.
2.) Now, let's go back to the video converter website. There, we'll paste the Youtube URL. This will tell the converter which video to convert and download.
3.) After pasting the Youtube URL, make sure that the Format is in mp3. (3)
4.) Click Start.
5.) While downloading, you should see the something like this.
6.) At the bottom right hand corner of your screen, it should indicate that the video is being downloaded.
7.) Once it says successfully downloaded, go to the Downloads folder of your computer. There, you'll see the file name of the video.
8.) You can then save it to your phone or mp3 player. If you're in the internet cafe and don't know how to transfer the file to your phone or mp3 player, ask the assistance of the internet cafe attendant. They know those things. 🙂
Note: you must connect your device (phone or mp3 player) to your computer, otherwise, you can't transfer the recording.
2.) Watching movies
I know this is pretty obvious but in case you're skeptical, let me explain why this works.
You see, watching movies, especially movies you absolutely like is never boring. It doesn't even feel like you're working your brain at all. It's having fun. At the same time, you're improving your English pronunciation and accent.
Do not watch movies without subtitles
Unless you can perfectly understand the accent (which you probably can’t at this point), do not watch a movie without subtitles. It defeats the purpose of the activity. Subtitles not only improves your spelling, but it also helps you fully understand what were said.
Make sure the audio is clear
Remember, we want to learn how each word should be pronounced so make sure that you can hear the movie very well.
Avoid delayed and wrong subtitles
Certain movies online don’t sync with the lines spoken by the characters. Sometimes, the subtitle is delayed or way faster. Sometimes, it just doesn’t correspond to what is being said at all. Whichever the case, avoid all of them to make your learning easier and fun.
Where to find movies:
- Online: I watch all movies for free online at https://fmovies.se/ .
- Offline: Buy DVD tapes. Make sure to first test them out and check for damages and scratches before taking them home.
3.) YouTube subtitles
Did you know you can watch Youtube videos with subtitles? All you need to do is click the "CC" at the bottom right hand corner of the screen and you'll start seeing the subtitles.
The benefits? Well it's just like watching a movie with subtitles. The only difference is doing it in YouTube is more accessible. You go to the internet cafe and start watching. While movies, on the other hand, are harder to access and more time-consuming.
This works well when you're pressed for time, don't have time for a long movie, but still want some dose of English.
Does this work all the time?
No. It's because these subtitles are automatically transcribed by YouTube. Therefore, in order for YouTube to transcribe each word accurately, the speaker in the audio must clearly speak and properly pronounce each word. Otherwise, you're going to read different words from what's spoken.
This is why I recommend AJ Hoge's channel. Since he's an English tutor, he needs to speak each word clear and loud. Easy for beginners to understand. I've been listening to his audio recordings even after I landed my first call center job. My English back then wasn't as good as now. And even now, it still has a room for improvement.
Yes, it does require time and effort. But it's worth it. 🙂
4.) Talk to native English speakers
This, of course, is not necessary, but if you find some native English speaker friends online who would love to talk to you, then go for it. Don't pass up the opportunity. You'll gain friends and will dramatically improve your English. It's the real deal, if you ask me, because they're the same speakers you'll be talking to once you get to answer calls over the phone.
For instance, I once met a co-applicant who married an Australian. Mind you, she only graduated high school. But her English? Exceptional! This only proves that listening plays a very important role in developing your English pronunciation and accent.
Does this mean you shouldn't speak, read, and write English?
Reading, writing, and speaking English do help you improve your English. They are connected. But if you are to speed up your learning process, you should never ignore the listening part. In my opinion it's the second most important and most effective one.
So what's the most important? This brings me to the most important part...
Everything I explained above is useless if you don't make a habit out of them and repeat them. Remember, if you don't use it, you'll lose it. Ever wonder why it's so hard to express your thoughts in English? Because your brain isn't used to English! Why are you so good in speaking Filipino or Bisaya? Because you're used to it!
Your job is to make your brain used to speaking English. And there is no other way to do it than to repeat, repeat and repeat. No other way. No chance in hell. I guarantee.
If you have something to take away from this post, I want you to remember that learning English shouldn't be as hard as you think it is. Have some fun doing it. Especially with YouTube. It's the home of free information with just about any topic.
Certainly better than spending the whole day taking selfies.
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